High Fidelity


High Fidelity
High Fidelity is directed by Stephen Frears (The High-Lo Country, Dangerous Liaisons) and is written for the screen by D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, Scott Rosenberg and John Cusack, from the novel by Nick Hornby. High Fidelity offers a comedic look at its heartbroken main character and narrator, whose recent breakup forces him to rethink his previous failed romances and to confront the fear of commitment. The owner of a vinyl record store, Rob Gordon (John Cusack: Being John Malkovich) feels misled and mistreated by his new ex-girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle: Mifune). Bored and confused, Rob decides to revisit a series of old girlfriends (played by Lili Taylor, Joelle Carter and Catherine Zeta-Jones) in order to learn from their reasons for having rejected him. When his research produces a somewhat optimistic view of himself, Rob's self-esteem is revitalized and he feels compelled to pursue a new adventure with the exotic Marie DeSalle (Lisa Bonet). Conflicts arise when Rob learns about Laura's sudden interest in his intolerable neighbor Ian (Tim Robbins).
High Fidelity portrays the banal aspects of falling in and out of love. Its main character, who personifies the identifiable ups and downs of bachelorhood, often turns to the camera to describe his misfortunes and to incite the viewers' sense of sympathy and humor. High Fidelity draws most of its comedy, however, from Rob's two eccentric employees, Barry and Dick (Jack Black and Todd Louiso), whose well-defined personalities and distinct tastes in music contrast Rob's overall ambivalence. High Fidelity offers a strictly male point of view by depicting a world where every male character --troubled or not-- is nonetheless a funny character, and where all female characters are either too angered, too hurt or too indifferent, yet always serious. This choice supports the protagonist's perception of the female mind as impenetrable and makes High Fidelity a film which comments one-sidedly on the irrationality of love.

Transplanted from England to the not-so-mean streets of Chicago, the screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's cult-classic novel High Fidelity emerges unscathed from its Americanization, idiosyncrasies intact, thanks to John Cusack's inimitable charm and a nimble, nifty screenplay (cowritten by Cusack). Early-thirtysomething Rob Gordon (Cusack) is a slacker who owns a vintage record shop, a massive collection of LPs, and innumerable top-five lists in his head. At the opening of the film, Rob recounts directly to the audience his all-time top-five breakups--which doesn't include his recent falling out with his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), who has just moved out of their apartment. Thunderstruck and obsessed with Laura's desertion (but loath to admit it), Rob begins a quest to confront the women who instigated the aforementioned top-five breakups to find out just what he did wrong.
Low on plot and high on self-discovery, High Fidelity takes a good 30 minutes or so to find its groove (not unlike Cusack's Grosse Pointe Blank), but once it does, it settles into it comfortably and builds a surprisingly touching momentum. Rob is basically a grown-up version of Cusack's character in Say Anything (who was told "Don't be a guy--be a man!"), and if you like Cusack's brand of smart-alecky romanticism, you'll automatically be won over (if you can handle Cusack's almost-nonstop talking to the camera). Still, it's hard not to be moved by Rob's plight. At the beginning of the film he and his coworkers at the record store (played hilariously by Jack Black and Todd Louiso) seem like overgrown boys in their secret clubhouse; by the end, they've grown up considerably, with a clear-eyed view of life. Ably directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons), High Fidelity features a notable supporting cast of the women in Rob's life, including the striking, Danish-born Hjejle, Lisa Bonet as a sultry singer-songwriter, and the triumphant triumvirate of Lili Taylor, Joelle Carter, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rob's ex-girlfriends. With brief cameos by Tim Robbins as Laura's new, New Age boyfriend and Bruce Springsteen as himself.
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